Reports indicate that instances of a new kind of phishing scam are increasing in frequency. Dubbed “vishing” for “voice phishing”, the scam attempts to trick users into supplying sensitive personal information via a bogus telephone call rather than on a fake website.
While an increasing number of Internet users are now wise to the methods used in “traditional” phishing scams, this new phone-based tactic is likely to reap a whole new set of victims. Several institutions, including online payment service, PayPal, have recently been targeted by vishing scams.
“Normal” phishing scams generally try to trick recipients into clicking a link in a bogus email, ostensibly to update their details. The email will appear to have been sent by a legitimate institution such as a bank. However, the link in the message leads to a fake website where the recipient will be asked to provide personal information such as passwords and credit card details. Information provided will then be harvested by the scammers.
Vishing scams also use a bogus email that asks users to update their information. However, the recipient is requested to ring an included telephone number to provide the information rather than visit a website. When the number is called, a recorded message will ask the user to provide sensitive information. As with other kinds of phishing scams, this information can then be used by scammers to access bank or credit accounts or steal the victim’s identity.
An even more insidious variant of vishing does not use email at all. Instead, the victim receives a telephone call that plays a recorded message that requests personal information. Often, the scammers use a “war dialler” (a computer program that can be used to automatically call telephone numbers within a given range) in order to reach a large number of potential victims. In a related scam, the criminal attempts to obtain CVV2/CVC2 security numbers by phoning credit card holders and posing as Security and Fraud Department staff from Visa or MasterCard.
Vishing scammers are capitalizing on the low cost and anonymity of Internet telephony that is now widely available via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP is proving to be an excellent vehicle for vishing scams.
As with phishing scams, vishing attacks are not hard to thwart once consumers have knowledge of how they operate. If you receive an unsolicited email or phone call that requests you to provide sensitive information over the telephone, do not comply. Instead, you should locate a contact number for the institution that supposedly placed the call (do not use a contact number provided by the caller), and call the institution directly to check the legitimacy of the request.
With identity theft scams growing increasingly more sophisticated, it is wise for consumers to treat any unsolicited request for personal information with suspicion. Spending a few minutes verifying if a request for information is legitimate could save you from having money stolen from your accounts or suffering the enduring nightmare of identity theft.